Blazers Deal with Jerami Grant Was Fine, Despite Lillard Departure

Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers will sign Jerami Grant to a five-year, $160 million contract when the NBA free agency moratorium ends next week.

It will still go through despite Damian Lillard’s request to be moved.

The impressive amount was reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania, 21 minutes into free agency without details on incentives, options or annual breakdowns.

As the Blazers were Grant’s incumbent team, they were uniquely able to offer a five-year contract, which will expire in 2028 — a couple of months after his 34th birthday.

You’re going to struggle find anyone who will admit the contract favors the Blazers. But with Lillard’s likely departure, the Blazers could again find themselves back under the salary cap very soon, making the size of Grant’s deal a whole lot more palatable. The franchise will not be letting him walk for nothing and Grant’s not hanging around to play with a team of guys on rookie-scale contracts.

Grant’s 2022-23 campaign

Playing in Portland colors last season, Grant averaged 20.5 points on a career-high 40 percent from three as well as 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks.

He finished in the 82nd percentile among forwards in three-point shooting, 88th percentile on threes from above the break (41 percent) and 84th percentile in blocks. Grant’s points per shot attempts was solid at 121.8 to go with a decent enough 55.5 effective field goal percentage.

He contributed with and without the ball at a position the Blazers had been shallow at for years, operating on both sides of the ball.

Arguably, Grant’s most important contributions came on the defensive end, often serving at the point of attack. He was credentialed to play there but probably would have played less of if Matisse Thybulle had been a Blazer all season.

Grant’s workload increased dramatically when Damian Lillard sat with injury throughout the 2022-23 campaign. During these periods, both he and Anfernee Simons were forced to perform as offensive focal points, making him a true two-way player.

Big Deal?

Even with that recap in mind, I hear you ask, “But why did they have to give him $32 million a year? Who else was ponying up that kind of money?”

While the old adage suggests Blazers have to pay a higher price for free agents, there was a little more to it than that.

Firstly, Grant had earned his payday. He became all that was billed last season, and more.

I’ve got no doubt that off the back of his recent campaign, cap space teams such as the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings could have offered lucrative deals.

To combat this, the Blazers and Grant’s management might have have known going into free agency that they would need to meet a certain number to ward off competing offers. [ed. That number was max years, big dollars.]

Cronin wasn’t in a position to wait and see here. He had to secure Grant, not only to then keep Lillard on side but to also avoid losing the forward for nothing in case the point guard changed his mind.

Lillard Leaving Tax

Given Lillard’s departure, Grant is almost certainly not finishing said contract in Portland. Which leads me to another factor that may have led to the gargantuan contract.

Rich Paul appears to be pretty good at his job — see the deal Fred VanVleet secured in Houston. I can only speculate but perhaps the reason Grant’s deal was a little larger than expected because of doubts surrounding Lillard.

If Lillard gets dealt this summer, Grant, 29, will be stuck in another re-building scenario (see Pistons tenure) until he is legally able to be moved in January. The contract ends keeps Grant and Paul happy regardless of Lillard’s presence or intentions.

Is the deal movable?

With some of the other deals already doled out, a $32 million-a-year deal doesn’t appear ridiculous for a versatile forward in his prime, especially if Grant is able to capitalize on his 2022-23 form.

The NBA salary cap will be $136 million next season. It’s only going up over the next five year. Grant’s deal will make up 23 percent of the the cap, perfectly fine for what he is a — a third player in the offense.

Let’s assume Grant is in Portland on opening night. If he’s able to perform at the near fringe All Star level he did last season, moving him at next year’s trade deadline shouldn’t be an issue.

Obviously the deal is five years long, which might appear prohibitive at first, but Grant will be in demand given his versatility and skillset. Cronin won’t face the same issue he encountered in parting with Norman Powell’s five-year deal. Grant is movable, especially over the first few years.


The initial reaction to Grant’s deal was surprise at the size — it was more than most of us had hoped. But the Blazers couldn’t afford not to bring back the talented forward, regardless of whether Damian Lillard was moved over the summer.

We now have clarity on the second half of that sentence. But Grant’s fate is a semi-independent issue from Lillard’s.

If Grant can play at a near All Star level level through January there’s no doubt he can be moved for a decent-enough haul in January and February next year.

Read more
Back to top ↑